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I think my partner has a porn addiction-do we need sex therapy?

Porn addiction is a common reason for people to attend sex therapy and couples counselling. We unpack what porn addiction is and when to seek support.


What is porn addiction?


Clients for sex therapy and couples counselling often say their partner is ‘addicted’ to porn, simply because they watch porn and find it difficult to stop watching it – this is not an always an addiction, a lot of porn is designed to hook the user in.


While there is no clear definition of a porn addiction according to the American Psychiatric Association, a porn addiction usually presents as a person who uses pornography in a way that impacts the regular functioning of their life – for example, not going to work because you’re at home watching porn, or not getting any sleep because you’re up late all night every night watching porn, or avoiding having a real relationship because it doesn’t compare to porn. The repetitive use of pornography must impact your daily living for it to be classified as addictive and potentially harmful.


Porn isn’t the problem - it’s what kind of porn you’re watching (emphasis on ethical porn please!) and whether your porn use impacts your daily living. It's not about how much you watch, but about what you’re sacrificing to watch it. If you’re regularly choosing to watch porn above one of life’s necessities like sleep, eating, going to work, going to the toilet, having real relationships, then you may want to question whether you’re addicted.


When should I seek help for porn addiction?


Unrealistic expectations – expecting your own sexual activity to replicate porn is very problematic. What you see in pornography vs what your sexual partner actually likes are probably two very, very different scenarios.


Increasing taboo effect – porn is always trying to push the edge of what is novel and likely to attract attention from viewers. Porn often goes toward the extremes of sexual activity, which may not be what you actually want for yourself. Extreme porn often sidelines so-called ‘vanilla’ sex as boring even though it can be very satisfying.


Using porn and only porn to cope – you can’t rely on one single coping strategy to support you in times of need. People need diversity in their coping strategies. If your partner hates you using porn, and it’s all you have available to cope with a busy day at work – it’s a lose/lose situation.


Lowering your satisfaction toward your own sex life – comparison is the death of satisfaction. Comparing yourself to porn can create a real wedge between yourself and your own sexual appetite, behaviours and wishes.


What can I say to my partner?


You may say something like; I have noticed that you’re using porn more often than before. No judgement and you know yourself best, but are you concerned about your porn use? Have you noticed your porn use has changed? Do you think we should explore sex therapy and couples counselling? If your partner is using porn excessively it may be due to other stressors in their life so check in on how they’re coping with life in general and ensure that they have adequate access to other coping strategies like exercise, friends and therapy.


Sex therapy and couples counselling is a great place to explore your relationship with porn and porn addiction. You can attend by yourself or you can attend through couples counselling to support you to understand how porn is impacting your relationship.

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